Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

"The Vatican is Too Rich!"



Catholics get this sort of thing thrown at them all the time:  "The Vatican is too wealthy! It should sell everything and give it to the poor or send it to Africa or something!"

People who say such a thing have no clue what they're talking about. My challenge: 

  • Go to Google

  • Type in "Net worth of"

  • Follow the above with the word "Vatican"
  • Do as above, but replace "Vatican" with "Mark Zuckerberg"
  • Do as above, but replace "Zuckerbgerg" with "Bill Gates"
  • Do as above, but replace "Bill Gates" with "James Simon"
  • Do as above, but replace "James Simon" with "Len Blavatnik"
  • Do as above, but replace "Len Blavatnik" with "Warren Buffet"
  • Do as above, but replace "Warren Buffet" with "George Soros"
  • Do as above, but replace "George Soros" with "Rothschild"

  • Do as above, but replace "Rothschild" with "Steven Spielberg"

Here's what I found, just now, upon doing this:










So, OK, the Vatican has more money than Spielberg. You win! But seriously, the Vatican isn't even close to being as wealthy as some people seem to think it is. And those same people aren't going after Spielberg to send all his money to Africa. And they're not going after Mormons, either, which, it seems, has more money that everybody according to this Wall Street Journal article:

Look, even if the Church were as wealthy as some people like to think, consider:  throughout the 2,000 years of Her existence, the Church has been given beautiful works of art, and has commissioned many as well. We Catholics believe our church buildings should be beautiful, inspiring, the best we can offer. A crucial point to remember is that our churches are more than mere places to gather and have "services"; they are quite literally places where Christ Himself is Present on our altars and in the tabernacles, so throughout History, Catholics have donated and labored to build the most beautiful churches they can. Just think of all the tradesmen working to build a cathedral that'd take 200 years to complete!

The house of God, a Catholic labor of love

We carry on the tradition set forth in the Old Testament, filling our churches with carvings, paintings, precious liturgical vessels (which hold the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ Himself!). Read about what the Temples used by our spiritual ancestors were like! They weren't drab, dreary, whitewashed rooms with bare walls! Not even close! Read chapters 3 and 4 of II Paralipomenon (II Chronicles in your Bibles) to learn how King Solomon built the Temple. When you do, you'll read things such as: 

And the porch in the front..he overlaid it within with pure gold.  And the greater house he ceiled with deal boards, and overlaid them with plates of fine gold throughout: and he graved in them palm trees, and like little chains interlaced with one another. He paved also the floor of the temple with most precious marble, of great beauty. And the gold of the plates with which he overlaid the house, and the beams thereof, and the posts, and the walls, and the doors was of the finest: and he graved cherubims on the walls.

He made also the house of the holy of holies... and he overlaid it with plates of gold...He made also nails of gold, and the weight of every nail was fifty sicles: the upper chambers also he overlaid with gold. He made also in the house of the holy of holies two cherubims of image work: and he overlaid them with gold.

[Th]e wings of the two cherubims were spread forth...and they stood upright on their feet, and their faces were turned toward the house without. He made also a veil of violet, purple, scarlet, and silk: and wrought in it cherubims.

And he made ten golden candlesticks, according to the form which they were commanded to be made by: and he set them in the temple, five on the right hand, and five on the left. Moreover also ten tables: and he set them in the temple, five on the right side, and five on the left. Also a hundred bowls of gold.

And the multitude of vessels was innumerable, so that the weight of the brass was not known. And Solomon made all the vessels for the house of God, and the golden altar, and the tables, upon which were the leaves of proposition, The candlesticks also of most pure gold with their lamps to give light before the oracle, according to the manner.

And certain flowers, and lamps, and golden tongs: all were made of the finest gold. The vessels also for the perfumes, and the censers, and the bowls, and the mortars, of pure gold. And he graved the doors of the inner temple, that is, for the holy of holies: and the doors of the temple without were of gold

Now, does that sound more like a (traditional) Catholic Church -- or a Baptist, Pentecostal, Evangelical, or Quaker building? Does this sound like Joel Osteen's mega-church auditorium at all? Does Pastor Hagee's worship space look anything like this?

The New Covenant is the Old Covenant fulfiflled. The priestly authority described in the Old Testament passed on to Catholic priests, not to Pharisaic rabbis (who are the progenitors of modern Judaism, a radically different religion than the religion of the Old Testament) or to Protestant ministers who didn't exist until the 16th century and who don't offer the Sacrifice prophesied in the first chapter of Malachi:
For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts.

Consider, too, the words of Christ Himself, spoken against those who thought that Mary Magdalene erred when she anointed Christ instead of selling the ointment she used and giving it to the poor. Sound familiar? From Mark 14:3-10

And when he was in Bethania, in the house of Simon the leper, and was at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of precious spikenard: and breaking the alabaster box, she poured it out upon his head.

Now there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said: Why was this waste of the ointment made?  For this ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and given to the poor. And they murmured against her.

But Jesus said: Let her alone, why do you molest her? She hath wrought a good work upon me. For the poor you have always with you: and whensoever you will, you may do them good: but me you have not always.  She hath done what she could: she is come beforehand to anoint my body for burial. Amen, I say to you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, that also which she hath done, shall be told for a memorial of her. 

And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests, to betray him to them.

Mary's beautiful act of love and humility seems to have been the very thing that sent Judas off in the wrong direction! How Judas-like are those non-Catholics who accuse the Catholic Church of doing the very thing St. Mary Magdalen did -- and become enraged over it! When slurs about the Church's alleged wealth are hurled at Catholics, they're never done with a gentle, wondering attitude, as in, for example, "I see that you're very serious about your Catholic faith, but one thing I just don't understand is how the Vatican can have so much material wealth and doesn't use it for the poor. That's always bothered me. Can you help me understand the thinking behind that?" Oh, no. It comes at us like this, "The Vatican is a corrupt, nasty institution, leading people astray. Its got a rancid, violent History, with stuff like the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades! They've got all this money and they sit on it while people are dying! The Pope lives like the *^%*%$ king of the world; he doesn't care about the poor!"  It's very, very ugly.

First of all, the Catholic Church is the single greatest charitable institution in the History of man. We're the ones who invented soup kitches. And hospitals. And orphanages. We have entire religious orders devoted to serving the poor and sick. Forbes ranks the Catholic Charities USA as being among the top fifteen largest charities in the United States, with our having spent $4.5 billion dollars -- money collected from Christ-loving Catholics -- caring for just the American needy in 2014 alone.1 And that's just the United States. We have missions, hospitals, orphanages, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, etc., all over the planet.
For example, according to Rome Reports, here's what the Church does just for Africa. It runs:

1,074 hospitals
5,373 primary care centers
186 leprosy treatment centers
1,279 clinics
753 homes for the elderly and disabled
979 orphanages
1,997 nurseries
1,590 marriage counseling centers
2,947 social  education centers

In addition to caring for the needy and sick is the caring for our cultural heritage. The Vatican preserves the great works of art that've been entrusted to the Church, and makes them available to the entire world in its museums. These beautiful works, freely given to or commissioned by the Church, are meant to inspire us! Would the world be better off if these invaluable treasures of the Western world were removed from Vatican museums, auctioned off at Sotheby's, and turned into tchotchke sitting in some Jewish guy's Manhattan penthouse? Really?

Now, it must be understood that Vatican City is its own country, and has expenses like every other country in the world does. It must pay for its infrastructure, its police, its utilities, its missions, payroll for its employees, etc., etc. Just the Vatican radio station alone has over 300 employees! That's a lot that an entire country has to pay for with a mere 10 billion dollars. That amount of money is not far from what Israel gets every year from the American taxpayer just for military funding.

Some people go on about the various properties owned by the Church throughout the world. Well! God forbid Catholics should have parishes where they can attend Mass, schools to educate their children, or places where nuns, sisters, monks, and brothers can live so they can continue their work of feeding the poor, caring for the homeless, tending to the sick, etc. Other faith communities can have their synagogues, mosques, or buildings in which to hold their services, so why can't we? Some Protestants are even fine with those huge megachurches -- those things that look like sports arenas and come packaged with snack bars, coffee shops, gyms, basketball courts, ATMs, gift shops, bookstores, etc. The average income of just one of those huge places was $6.5 million in 2007, half of which went to salaries.2  These ginormous structures can cost $20 million dollars to build -- not a problem, of course, because they're Protestant. But when it comes to Catholics -- well, I guess we're expected to attend Mass in rooms we rent from our local libraries or something, and our priests should be living on bread and water (as it is, the typical priest's yearly income is $40,000 per year. 3 Trash collectors make  $34,420, and the average schoolbus driver's salary is $31,509. And they don't work 7 days a week or get sick calls in the middle of the night either.). Whatever!

All the parishes and monasteries around the world aren't even owned by "the Pope" or "the Vatican"; they're owned by the various Bishops and the religious orders in question. So, please, stop talking about how "the Vatican" or "the Pope" is "too wealthy" and -- what? Should sell the Sistine Chapel so it can be turned into a disco and the proceeds sent to Africa, where some
African "Big Man" leader will use it all for himself while his people starve? No thanks!

And finally, the Catholic Church is not the largest land-owner in the world; King Charles III is.


1 "The 50 Largest U.S. Charities," Forbes Magazine. Retrieved October 5, 2016. URL:

"America's Biggest Megachurches", Forbes Magazine. Retrieved October 5, 2016. URL:

3 Parish priests, by the way, don't make vows of poverty. Only the religious (nuns, monks, brothers, sisters), including religious priests (priests who offer Mass for their religious orders), do. 

Defense of Catholicism